I live on Vancouver Island and am looking for a group of people in this area that might be like minded and want to pick mushrooms or some other edibles during the fall or otherwise. Are there any good threads on this site dedicated to that kind of discussion and Vancouver Island in particular?
Welcome to the forum. I’m very new here myself but found this thread:
As far as your particular area goes, I know salal berries are popular in certain circles.
Don’t want to be a killjoy here, I have done lots of foraging myself, but it pays to be aware of the hazards.
See link below
Harvesting wild mushrooms also requires good identification skills. Some very toxic fungi can look similar to edible mushrooms.
BTW: The plant in the news story, warrigal greens, is not a “grass” as stated. It is a species of Tetragonoides which are found and eaten in many parts of the world. They are sometimes called goosefoot or New Zealand spinach.
Yes, mushrooms definitely take more skillwork/expertise when it comes to figuring out species. I’m not trying to discourage you from foraging, but please take extra care when foraging fungi. Plants are typically easier since there are typically more resources online and many edible species look pretty distinct. Don’t forage in polluted areas, such as near roadways, and only forage where it is legal.
Hi, Ian, I know nothing about foraging but there are definitely people here who do forage and so may be helpful. I just wanted to echo Eric in saying welcome to the forum!
(Aiming the bat signal, come in… @lothlin )
I would find a local foraging group, or at the very least join a more broad mushroom ID site (especially if you’re looking for mushrooms.)
There’s some guides out there for common edible mushrooms - most mushrooms recommended for beginners also have very few look alikes… because its harder to mess up. There’s a few choice edibles that have very dangerous look alikes, so you have to be careful and just avoid those in general until you get more experience. Forager chef has some decent info https://foragerchef.com/35-incredible-wild-mushrooms-every-forager-should-know/
You’re on the west coast and have a bit of a different mushroom spread that little old me over here in the midwest, so I’d definitely look up some local resources. That said, this time of year, the safest edibles to harvest are probably going to be things like Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sp.), Giant Puffballs (Calvatia sp.) Chantarelles (Cantharellus sp. & Craterellus sp.), King Boletes (Boletus edulis and similar species,) uh… there’s some others but like I said, there’s a fair bit of species difference across the continental divide.
Here’s an Oregon article that has some more pacific-northwest specific species
Also I would fully suggest picking up some mushroom identification books. The Complete Mushroom Hunter is an excellent beginner’s guide with region specific information, and you’ll also want to grab some more general books for your area.
David Arora books are a good place to start (some of the scientific names are out of date, but that happens with books, the information is still solid) - check out All the Rain Promises and More along and if you want to go more in depth, Mushrooms Demystified
EDIT: Generally, you’re not going to find much foraging specific information on this site. IDs on iNat itself should not be used as your only confirmation of species
EDIT 2: Also, no matter what you’re foraging, you NEED to familiarize yourself with poisonous species in your area. This is the most important thing you can do.
As a long-time forager, I can give you the advice I usually give my friends.
- Pick one or two species to start and get really really good at them - don’t start out trying to do everything at once. Add new things in slowly after you feel completely confident in the others.
- Never trust another person’s ID without being able to verify it yourself. Especially on the internet. I once saw a Research-Grade “fennel” observation with a cheery “the seeds are edible!” comment - and the plant in the pic was actually poison hemlock. Yikes.
- Purchase a good ID book, and learn to use the keys.
- When you start eating what you’ve foraged, start slowly - eat a small mouthful the first time and leave it at that for a day. Especially with mushrooms, even perfectly edible species can give some people bad reactions, so you’ll want to make sure you handle them well.
Foraging can be extremely rewarding, but does need to be done cautiously.
In your area, a few of the good starter species I’d recommend considering:
Rubus bifrons (Himalayan Blackberry)
Vaccinium parvifolium (Red Huckleberry)
Gaultheria shallon (Salal)
Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen Huckleberry)
Claytonia perfoliata (Miner’s Lettuce)
Rubus leucodermis (Whitebark Raspberry)
Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle)
If you’re looking to get into mushrooms, it looks like there’s a Vancouver mycological society that’d probably be great to join: https://www.vanmyco.org/about-vms/join/membership-levels/
Consider joining your local mycological society to learn how and where to forage safely.
South Vancouver Island Mycological Society
Now I’m trying to imagine under what circumstances poison hemlock could resemble fennel…
If you’re looking to get started in fall, forget stinging nettle for now. That’s only edible in early spring before the fibers toughen up. In general, your wild edibles are going to be a lot more seasonal than you’re used to at the grocery store. A lot of the leafy greens are only foragable in late winter into spring, fruits come out successionally through the summer and into fall, some kinds only for two or three weeks a year.
Learn to identify the potentially dangerous plants/fungi in your area first and review the “Similar Species” tab for them. For example, with Poison Hemlock, Fennel shows up in 5th place as a similar species.
Avoid going too far out of your normal geographic range when foraging as it’s easier to make mistakes with unfamiliar species, like this Manchineel fruit, for example.
You may have to adjust expectations about quantity and quality of foraged foods. Often, there’s not much to make for a satisfying meal or the flavor isn’t great.
This man leads expeditions to learn about mushrooms and how to safely prepare them. He has a book on hunting Pacific Northwest mushrooms
Well, I suppose the thing is it doesn’t have to. I’ve seen plenty of Research Grade IDs on plants that were identified as something completely unrelated and that looked nothing like the species it was identified as.
I think @graysquirrel’s point is that, if I didn’t know plants, I might trust the Research Grade ID and eat them.
Just recently we cleaned up literally hundreds of fake Research Grade observations from just a few schoolmates that had gone through and confirmed each other’s bogus IDs. I suspect because they were required by their teacher to observe a minimum number of species, they just made up the IDs to bump up their numbers.
I guess the point is do your own research.
Well, I wouldn’t have brought it up myself, but… I would love to accompany an experienced forager here in the Portland, Oregon metro area, if any happen to be on this forum.
Experienced foragers of mushrooms are often hard to find. I suspect that teaching people who lack common sense is a rough road.
I’m comfortable eating low-risk fungi as long as I’ve followed the species through a season or more, I am reliable at identification off-book, and have located both the target species and any plausible lookalikes in multiple locations. I usually pin GPS locations within a device when I find potentially edible species, so that I can check back the same location the next year (and collecting GPS pins feels productive in the same way that foraging does). After that, I limit to prime young specimens (which is a small fraction of the total).
I find it’s important to me to not go out with too much optimism - I need to keep the finding and learning goals ahead of taking home something, but I also think that most people can handle recognizing a chicken of the woods without needing to follow an expert around.
So as concrete advice, I would say that you should get out there, and commit to locating and identifying some safe edible species without eating them (yet). Once you know your way around and have a sense of how often you can expect to see each target species, you’ll be that much less likely to have your optimism warp an identification, and can make an informed risk assessment.
That is very similar to the advice Euell Gibbons dispensed decades ago, in a chapter called “The Problem of Overconversion.”
One thing I have learned as a forager is that there is seldom if ever as much as you think there will be. Right now, we’re in muscadine grape season, and I find a lot more hollowed out grape skins that wildlife have already gotten to than intact, edible grapes. I know most if not all of the plants that Euell Gibbons wrote about in his main trilogy, but I have never been able to put together a complete wild meal like he described.
Hi, @IanMeyers, and welcome!
I’m not a mushroom person (and @lothlin has already been tagged in!), but if you have Chenopodium species growing up there, this is the time for it. It’s an ancient food, with evidence of human consumption going back to to the Neolithic Era. It’s an amaranth like quinoa, so the seeds can eaten as a grain, and the leaves make a great substitute for spinach—another close relative.